The NVIDIA Shield TV Is Kinda Ridiculous

It is rare that a successful company, and a publicly traded one at that, can miss the mark so epically, so blindly, like NVIDIA just did with the Shield Console (also called the Shield TV).

Ridiculous isn’t even an adequate word for something so mind-bogglingly useless.

Behold, the awfulness.

Taken as a soundbyte, the Shield TV is OK: 4K Media Streamer with gaming.

But that’s only marginally true. Can the Shield stream 4K, and be used as a cloud gaming terminal… yes. Technically. Sort of.

Let’s start with the media streamer part. This is the least absurd part of the Shield Console. Running Android OS you have access to all the normal streaming services. H.265 and other codecs are listed among the specs. As is, crucially, HDCP 2.2. However, there’s no mention of compatibility with Netflix and Amazon’s 4K streaming. Maybe that’s coming. Let’s hope, otherwise…

We’ll skip over the fact that any 4K TV capable of watching Netflix in 4K already has the app built in.

Though there was some hype about the processing power in the Console, there’s only so much a $200 product can do. This isn’t magic. In fact, during the unveiling, they kept referring to the Xbox 360 for comparison. Hardware designed before smartphones or Netflix streaming even existed. Potentially it can do some in-box gaming processing, but initial tests found that to be a mixed-bag. More powerful than the last-gen gaming consoles? Sure, but so what? As powerful as current gen? Doesn’t seem that way.

No, let’s go to the real ridiculousness. Game “streaming.” The idea here is to offload the heavy lifting for processing and graphics of modern games to some far-off server farm, then stream all the pretty to your TV. In theory, this is great. You don’t have to pay for the ultimate in computing power to get the ultimate in graphics. This has failed multiple times in the past few years, but hey, maybe it will work this time.

Except… there’s a physics problem. Or more precisely, a physical problem: lag. NVIDIA claims the target for lag of their Grid cloud gaming service is 150ms. This is an eternity. I wouldn’t have played on a server where I had 150ms of lag 15 years ago. And that lag is on top of whatever your TV adds because of its own input lag. So, conservatively, you’re looking at 200+ milliseconds of lag between when you press a button and that action happens on screen.

Forget multiplayer. Forget first-person shooters, fighting games, maybe even platformers.

This lag isn’t specifically NVIDIA’s fault mind you, it’s the nature of the speed of the Internet. But that can’t be an excuse. They’ve still come out with this product, and are hyping this feature, knowing how difficult it will be to play.

Speaking of speed, how fast of an Internet connection does NVIDIA want you to have? 50 mbps. Fifty. Five. Zero. The number of people that have web access that fast (in the US) is infinitesimal. Even the minimum requirement for 1080p/60 is 15mbps, which is still above the national average. I would love to see the VENN diagram of people who are crazy enough to want this thing, crossed with people that have a 50 mbps web connection. It’s probably one guy in Kansas named Roy. Tell us all about it, Roy.

Oh, and you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription, in addition to paying for any games you want to play.

I just don’t get it. I don’t get who would every buy this thing.

Bottom Line

Without definite compatibility with even the current (not to mention upcoming) 4K streaming services, I’m not sure anyone should consider this a reasonable 4K Media Streamer. Further, while the concept of cloud-processed gaming is an interesting one, it’s effectively useless for any sort of twitched-based gaming. In fact, the lag is likely so great, most gaming is probably difficult.

And for $200… An actual computer isn’t much more than that, and it will do 1080p gaming with little issue, with only your TV’s input lag to deal with. It won’t do 4K… but there are basically no games out that take advantage of 4K yet anyway (I’m talking actual 4K textures and associated graphics, not the game’s nominal resolution).

I love the term “corporate hubris” but this something else. A shocking display of corporate cluelessness.

But then, Google does that all the time.

rhirschey's picture

but alas...I don't live in Kansas. I was already having a blast reading this thing until I came across the reference to my old-fashioned name. Thanks for the shout out. Now if only Google Fiber could come to my place of residence and I was even remotely interested in video games....

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
jnemesh's picture

The Shield supports YouTube in 4K with hardware decoding of their VP9 codec. Lots of 4k content there that ISNT accessable from the YouTube apps on 4k Tvs currently....